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Philemon Foundation Bringing to Publication the complete works of C.G. Jung

Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung recounted that his turn toward psychiatry while in medical school was accompanied by voracious reading in the literature on psychic phenomena. In particular, he was drawn to Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit Seer and the writing of various eighteenth and nineteenth century authors, such as Passavant, Du Prel, Eschenmayer, Görres, Kerner, and, he said, Emanuel Swedenborg.

For man in his essence is a spirit, and together with spirits as to his interiors, wherefore he whose interiors are open to the Lord can speak with them. — Emmanuel Swedenborg, Earths in the Universe

The issue at hand for Jung was why the medical literature on psychiatry focused almost exclusively on diagnostic categories of mental illness, evolving a classification scheme that did not even resemble the diagnostic categories of general medicine, while at the same time the psychiatric literature reflected the general orientation of reductionistic science, in which the whole of personality was understood exclusively through the rational ordering of sense data alone. Jung himself remarked that what he was looking for in the psychiatric texts was a psychological language that would express the dynamic aspects of human consciousness in all their vagaries, from the psychopathic to the transcendent.1

Instead, what he found was an almost exclusive emphasis on pathology. The most popular books in the field at the time were works such as Cesare Lombroso on criminal anthropology, French theories of hereditary degeneration, Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s controversial volume, Psychopathia Sexualis, and Emil Kraepelin’s Textbook of Psychiatry, which proposed a reorganization and reclassification of mental diseases based on etiology and diagnosis of actual cases. There were some new developments along the so-called French- Swiss-English and American psychotherapeutic axis, toward which Jung would soon gravitate.

But at that moment in medical school what psychiatry lacked, Jung thought, was a dynamic language of interior experience. He was, first of all, intrigued at the time, he said, by Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, first published in 1766, four years before Kant’s own inaugural dissertation.2 Kant made a radical separation between the senses and the understanding and then debunked communication with spirit entities. Sense impressions are all that we can know, even though they are only impressions of outward things. The interior life of the ego we cannot know, Kant said, even though this is all that is actually real. He stated the outlines of his philosophy and then attacked the reigning metaphysicians of the time, such as Leibniz and Wolff, by focusing on one particular case, that of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, and interpreter of the Christian religious experience.

Swedenborg had spent the first half of his life mastering all the known sciences of his day. Eventually, he would write the first Swedish algebra, introduce the calculus to his countrymen, make major modifications on the Swedish hot air stove, design a flying machine, and anticipate both the nebular hypothesis and the calculation of longitude and latitude. He also studied with the great anatomist Boerhaave, learned lens grinding, made his own microscope, and assembled a physiological encyclopedia, in which he wrote on cerebral circulation, and identified the Thebecian veins in the heart.

By the time Swedenborg was forty, he had written numerous books on scientific subjects and been elected a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences. In his own personal quest, however, he had begun in mineralogy, geology, mathematics, and astronomy, and then proceeded to anatomy and physiology, before turning his attention to sensory and rational psychology, all in search of the soul. When he reached the limits of rational consciousness, he turned within and began an examination of his own interior states. In this, he combined techniques of intensive concentration and breath control with a primitive form of dream interpretation.

The effect became evident in 1744, when he claimed he experienced an opening of the internal spiritual sense, and God spoke to him through the angels, saying that He would dictate to Swedenborg the true internal meaning of the books of the Bible. Swedenborg began immediately to work on this dispensation and set out to write what came to be known as the Arcana Colestia, or Heavenly Doctrines. It took him a dozen volumes of his own writing just to cover the first two books of the Bible. The project came to an abrupt halt in 1757, however, when Swedenborg had another vision, this time of a totally transformed Christianity, in which there was a falling away of the denominations and the arising of the Lord’s New Church, as described by John in Revelations, which would come upon earth.

For the rest of his life, Swedenborg wrote about the new dispensation, publishing more than thirty volumes. His works were studied throughout Europe and had a particularly strong influence on the course of French and German Freemasonry, and occult groups among the intelligentsia variously involved in mesmerism, esoteric Christianity, Gnosticism, and the Kaballah.3 On his death, however, instead of a transformed Christianity, a new Christian denomination called The Church of the New Jerusalem sprang up, with principal centers in London, Philadelphia, and Boston. To this day the ecclesiastical history of the New Church places them as a small, conservative Christian denomination with regular church parishes, weekly Sunday services, ordained ministers, and study of the King James version of the Bible. Notable among their parishoners have been Helen Keller, William Dean Howles, Lydia Maria Child, and others. The transcendentalists read Swedenborg avidly, as did the brothers Henry and William James. Even D. T. Suzuki was a Swedenborgian, who founded the Swedenborg Society in Japan in 1913 and translated several of Swedenborg’s works. Paralleling these developments, Swedenborg’s ideas permeated the nineteenth century American scene and became closely allied with spiritualism and mental healing through the works of such men as Thomas Lake Harris, the utopian socialist, and Andrew Jackson Davis, the clairvoyant healer.

In any event, during his own later lifetime, after retiring from Parliament, and from service to the King of Sweden, under whom he had served as the Royal Assessor of Mines, Swedenborg contented himself with gardening and writing about the New Jerusalem. As a member of the Swedish aristocracy, he had numerous encounters with the Royal family and their associates. On several occasions, it had become known that he alleged he could speak with spirits of the dead, and was called upon by a friend of the Queen to locate lost articles of significant value. While he himself tried to keep out of the limelight, Swedenborg drew national attention to himself when Stockholm broke out in a great fire. Swedenborg was 200 miles away at the time, but reported on the exact details of the fire nonetheless to residents of Goteborg, with whom he was staying. When word came two days later corroborating the details, he was briefly investigated as somehow being involved in setting the fire. His exoneration, however, caused unwanted notoriety for his alleged powers.

Eventually, Kant heard these stories and wrote to Swedenborg, but Swedenborg was too absorbed to answer his letters. Eventually, Kant sent a messenger, who spoke with Swedenborg and interviewed others. When asked why he did not answer Kant’s letter, Swedenborg announced he would answer him in his next book. But when his next book came out, however, there was no mention of Kant. We can only imagine Kant’s fury, half Scottish and half German, which might account for the harshness of his criticisms of Swedenborg in Dreams of a Spirit Seer, but he had reached his great softening by the time he wrote his lectures on psychology and on metaphysics years later.

Kant, in fact, devotes an entire section in Dreams of a Spirit Seer to debunking Swedenborg’s philosophy. In particular, he takes Swedenborg to task for his absurd descriptions of heaven and hell, the planets and their inhabitants, and the fantastic impossibility of communication with angels. The angels, Swedenborg believed, were the souls of departed human beings once alive, who live in Heaven in the form of their old bodies, and consociate with those whom they have most loved on earth but who now dwell in heavenly societies, the sum total of which was the Grand Man.

Other writers during Swedenborg’s lifetime as well as after him had written on the nature of interior states of consciousness. Just glancing at a list of authors Jung said he had read in his medical years one notes : Johann Passavant had written on animal magnetism. Karl Ludwig Du Prel, an advocate of psychic phenomena, was also a commentator on Kant’s Dreams of a Spirit Seer. Carl Eschenmayer had written on topics such as demon possession, mysticism, and the supernatural, as did Joseph Görres, while Justinius Kerner had described the Seeress of Prevorst, a clairvoyant healer.4

In a previous report, it was stated that, while we know Jung read Swedenborg’s works at around the same time he was reading these other authors, we also had no idea which ones.5 Now, due to the investigations of Sonu Shamdasani, we have a list of the books on Swedenborg that Jung, in the middle of his medical training, checked out of the Basel Library during 1898.6

The charging records of the Library indicate the following:

January 18 1898 Swedenborg, Himmlische Geheimnisse, [tr. F. Tafel, Tübingen, 1850] [The Heavenly Arcana]

September 16 1898 Swedenborg Vom Himmel und dem wunderbaren Dingen desselben. [tr. J. C. Lenz, Leipzig 1775] [Heaven and Hell]

October 18 1898 Swedenborg Die Erdkörper in unserem Sonnensystem, welche wir Planeten heissen, [tr. E. Hofater, Tübingen 1841] [Earths in the Solar System]

October 18 1898 Swedenborg, Der Verkehr zwischen Seele und Leib. [Tübingen 1830] [Intercourse between the Soul and the Body]

October 18 1898 Swedenborg, Die Wonnen der Weisheit betreffen die eheliche Liebe, [tr. T. Tafel, Tübingen, 1845] [Conjugial Love]

From this information we may conclude a number of interesting points. The first work Jung checked out was The Arcana Coelestia, Swedenborg’s multivolume compendium giving the true internal spiritual meaning of the first two books of the Bible and the first major work of Swedenborg’s visionary era after the original revelations of 1744. Landscape with Philemon and BaucisThe importance of the Arcana is that, referring to the opening of the interior spiritual sense, Swedenborg maintains that the images of the Bible must be read symbolically and metaphorically according to the level of spiritual self-actualization of the person. The Bible is fundamentally a map indicating the stages of spiritual consciousness one must go through to reach the final stage of regeneration. One sees, however, into one’s own interiors to the level of one’s ability. To the literalist, for instance, God created earth and man and woman in seven days. For Swedenborg, each day of creation is the expression of a different stage of consciousness that must be mastered in the process of self-realization. The crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection is the death of the personal, self-centered ego and the arising of the spiritual dimension of personality, expressed as the purification of the soul, which is our link to the Divine while alive and to heaven upon our death. Revelation is not the end of the physical world, but a cataclysmic event in consciousness, an ecstatic, nay, mystical awakening in which the doors of perception are cleansed and we finally see that the natural is derived from the spiritual, not the other way around, and in this way the earth has been transformed.

A period of nine months then intervened, during which time we presume Jung was contemplating the content and meaning of the Arcana. Then in September, 1898, he checked out Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell is a work that should

A period of nine months then intervened, during which time we presume Jung was contemplating the content and meaning of the Arcana. Then in September, 1898, he checked out Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell is a work that should be read as Swedenborg’s communication on the nature of life after death. More importantly, however, it is an expanded statement of his claim that “Heaven is made by the Lord, while hell is created by man out of the misuse of the capacities of rationality and freedom.” This would be a description of the angels and their Heavenly societies and their relation to the Lord, which is the Grand Man.  width= This description takes up most of the book, together with a description of the hells, which come from vanity, self-centeredness, and lust. We see in this work the iconography of a person’s interior, phenomenological world view, much as Jung would reconstruct the interior world view of his patients, or ask his clients to reconstruct in their artistic depiction of states of individuation.

Then, a month later, Jung returned to check out Earths in the Solar System, The Soul and the Body in their Correlations, and The Delights of Wisdom Concerning Conjugial Love, all on the same day. Only the general gist of these volumes can be given here. Earths in the Solar System presents Swedenborg’s view that, not only are their spirits on the after death plane, they also inhabit other planets besides earth. The rationale for this is threefold. First, because the universe is bigger than the earth alone (in other words,consciousness is not defined or even solely made up of the rational waking state), and there is no reason to presume that we are the only entities out there; second, because nearly all cultures on earth report such communications, except those inhabiting western modernist societies; and third, because Swedenborg reported that he was visited by spirits from these other planets and was just chronicling what he had seen and heard.

The Soul and the Body and their Correlations is Swedenborg’s restatement of his doctrine of correspondences — that every aspect of the physical world is somehow reflected in the life of the soul. Jung perpetually returned to this linkage with his interest in the mind/body problem, and the personal equation in science; that is, how we simultaneously can know and experience phenomena, a question that formed the basis for his later exchange with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. The Doctrines Concerning Conjugial Love expresses Swedenborg’s revelation about the spiritual relation of the sexes in the process of regeneration. Man can only learn to love God through the love he experiences through others, and again, the essential relation of the opposites emerges. In addition, one cannot help but notice that this is also the controversial volume in which Swedenborg, himself an unmarried man with no apparent consort throughout his life, advocates that it is permissible for a married man to take on a second partner.

In any event, there is more to be said about the nature of the connections between Jung and Swedenborg’s ideas. It is sufficient here to indicate that new scholarship in this area is proceeding.


  1. F.X. Charet ((1993). Spiritualism and the Foundations of C. G. Jung’s Psychology. Albany: SUNY Press.) has implied that Jung’s motivation for reading this literature had been the recent death of his father, in hopes of communicating with him from beyond the grave. This might be plausible if Charet had more evidence from Jung himself on this point, but it seems even less likely given that Charet’s project to link Jung to spiritualism omits a crucial focus on the process of self-realization, of which spiritist phenomena must be considered a mere subsidiary and not a goal in and of themselves. Charet has spiritism as his main focus, with little mention of its relation to the process of individuation. Rather, supernormal powers are an epiphenomenon in the process of self-realization and only indicative of one’s progress, at least according to the Yoga texts with which Jung was most familiar. Attachment to them leads to karmic rebirth in a lower plane, knowing that a higher exists, which is worse, the text says, than not knowing that there is a higher interior life at all.
  2. Kant, Immanuel (1915/1766). Dreams of a Spirit Seer, Illustrated by Dreams of Metaphysics. Tr. E.F. Goerwitz, ed. By F Sewall. 2nd ed. London: New Church Press.
  3. Gabay, Alfred (2005). The Covert Enlightenment: Eighteenth century counter-culture and its aftermath. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation; Taylor, EI. (1999). Shadow Culture: Psychology and spirituality in America. Washington, DC: Counterpoint.
  4. Passavant, Johann Karl (1821). Untersuchungen über den Lebensmagnetismus und das Hellsehen. Frankfurt am Main : H. L. Brönner; DuPrel, Karl Ludwig (1970 edition). Das Rätsel des Menschen. Wiesbaden: Löwith; Eschenmayer, Carl Adolph (1837). Konflikt zwischen Himmel und Hölle, an dem Dämon eines besessenen Mädchens. [Caroline Stadelbauer]. Nebst einem Wort an Dr. Strauss. Tübingen, Leipzig, verlag der Buchhandlung Zu-Guttenberg; Kerner, Justinus. (1835). Geschichten Besessener neuerer Zeit. Beobachtungen aus dem Gebiete kakodämonisch-magnetischer Erscheinungen. Karlsruhe: Braun. Görres, Joseph von, (1854-55) La mystique divine, naturelle, et diabolique, par Görres, ouvrage traduit de l’allemand par M. Charles Sainte-Foi. Paris, Mme Vve Poussielgue-Rusand.
  5. Taylor, EI (1991). Jung and his intellectual context: The Swedenborgian connection, Studia Swedenborgiana, 7:2.
  6. Sonu Shamdasani, by permission. Translation courtesy of Ms. Angela Sullivan.
  7. Compare, for instance, with vishwavirat svarupam, the univsersal form of the cosmic man, in Tantric Hinduism. unmarried man with no apparent consort throughout his life, advocates that it is permissible for a married man to take on a second partner.
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